Misconception

Kentucky only wins when they hit three point bombs. They have no inside attack. This might work against mediocre teams like those found in the Southeast Conference but when they go up against a good team, they will get beat. As the saying says, live by the three, die by the three.


The Facts

When Rick Pitino took over as head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats in 1989, he inherited a team with a gaping lack of inside talent. Reggie Hanson played center and was their toughest inside player. Although he performed admirably, the fact that he was really a thin 6-7' forward underscored the lack of an inside game in that team. Pitino knew that he must have a perimeter-oriented attack and that the three-point line provided the means to keep his talent poor team competitive.


1989-90 Kentucky Wildcats

FRONT ROW (left to right): Strength coach Ray "Rock" Oliver, Richie Farmer, Sean Woods, John Pelphrey, Derrick Miller, Graduate Assistant Billy Donovan.
BACK ROW (left to right): Assistant coach Herb Sendek, Assistant coach Orlando Smith, Deron Feldhaus, Johnathon Davis, Reggie Hanson, Jeff Brassow, Henry Thomas, Associate coach Ralph Willard, Coach Rick Pitino

JPS Note - This team may have been short on talent, but they certainly had some good coaches !

As the years progressed, Kentucky became more adept at their system of spreading the court, passing and finding an open shot. With the arrival of inside recruits, including Jamal Mashburn and Rodney Dent, the team became more balanced offensively. Kentucky still shot threes but less frequently.


Rebuttal

In order to win immediately in the 89-90 season, Pitino made great use of the three point line and took advantage of perhaps the best scorer on the team, senior Derrick Miller, who possessed a silky smooth shot with excellent range. Pitino molded the team into one which wasn't afraid to shoot the three, no matter who had the ball. Players such as Reggie Hanson and Deron Feldhaus, who under other coaches would probably never have attempted a three, became fairly proficient with the shot. This was designed to force the opponents to guard everyone all over the court and extended the defense. Although the team finished 14-14, this was a success considering the preseason expectations for the team. Pitino's system was becoming effective, it was fun to play and to watch.

Year Made Att. Made/Gm Att/Gm %age
1990 281 810 10.0 28.9 34.7%
1991 242 715 8.64 25.56 33.8%
1992 317 888 8.80 24.67 35.7%
1993 340 862 10.0 25.35 39.4%
1994 301 857 8.85 25.2 35.1%
1995 236 736 7.15 22.30 37.5%
19962676707.4118.61 39.9%
19972877777.1819.42 36.9%
Three-Point Shooting During Pitino's Tenure

Kentucky honed their style of play, with shooting threes still an integral part of their offensive attack. As the years progressed however, the number of three point shots attempted has decreased as other facets of Kentucky's game including post play, driving to the basket and defensive traps and pressure have taken a greater importance than during the early days. The result being that while UK shot less threes, they became more effective both from a shooting percentage standpoint and as a complement to their inside play.



Despite this, Kentucky is still considered by the press to be solely a three point shooting team and this misconception is repeated yearly by clueless television analysts.


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Jon Scott